Sugar here. Bionic and I have been thinking that I should write a post or two about how it feels to be ‘the other mom.’ I will attempt to do this, although as I sit down to start writing I feel a massive wave of confusion threatening to overwhelm me. So bear with me.
First, I have a confession to make. Last year, and every year preceding last year, I was not that interested in having a kid. Not just not interested in having one gestate inside my body, but not interested in being a parent. I thought that it would be a lot of work, would take me away from things I really wanted to be doing, and would not have a lot of pay off. I thought people thought I was unnatural for feeling this way, but since I had already delivered society the big fuck you of saying, hey, I’m a lesbian, the unnaturalness of being non-maternal paled in comparison.
I’d always known that Bionic liked kids and wanted some someday. Early on in our relationship (say 10 or 12 years ago) I hoped she might grow out this unfathomable desire. She didn’t. I think she hoped I would change my mind too, and to a certain extent I did. I went from I-hate-children-they-are-loud-and-annoying-and-turn-your-mind-into-a-pile-of-dribble to that-might-not-be-so-bad-if-I-manage-to-fulfill-my-career-goals-first.
Unfortunately, I went on not fulfilling my career goals for quite some time. I could see that Bionic had a point when she said we were going to cross into the time in our lives where conceiving a child would be difficult just because we waited too long. (This was before we knew about Bionic’s infertility issues.) I felt that I had a choice between insisting on a negation that would make Bionic feel empty and sad, possibly for the rest of her life, and jumping into THE GREAT UNKNOWN.
As the non-bio mom, I had another layer of fears about my fears. I thought that none of what I was experiencing was supposed to be happening. If I were a better person — more successful, more maternal, more normal in some way — I just wouldn’t be feeling any conflict and we would be dancing to the happy flower-filled wonderland of parenthood without a care. Or at the very least I would be having the conflict everyone seemed to expect me to have — i.e. conflict over being the one not having the baby. In this way approaching the decision to be a non-biological mom is different from approaching the decision to be a father. Obviously no one wonders why fathers aren’t the ones gestating the baby. But also, men are expected and allowed to feel and say the things I felt — ‘Really, kids? Do I have to like them? What about money, do we have enough? Will I still have time for my career?’ They don’t have to be afraid that if people find out what they are thinking they will shout MONSTER!
As is obvious from all the other posts on this blog, we decided on the great unknown rather than the great negation. As we began to try to get Bionic pregnant, I still felt ambivalent, but since we had chosen a path a lot of people began to ask us a lot of questions. I felt that I needed to project the idea that I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I’M DOING AND EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE (why do you ask?) My parents were not very pleased with the pregnancy concept, and I spent a lot of emotional energy deflecting their worries. My best friend also was not helpful. She is of the personality type that likes to evaluate and judge and plan every little thing in life with the goal of eliminating all ambivalence before going forward. When I told her we were trying to get Bionic pregnant, she said, “but how do you feel about that?” as though I hadn’t given my own desires any thought. I couldn’t say to her, “I don’t know.” So I said, “Wonderful! I feel great!”
I felt very alone.
As you all know, it took some doing to get Bionic pregnant. After what seemed an eternity of seeing Bionic feeling sad or ill, it did happen. I remember standing there looking at the single blinking pixel on the ultrasound screen thinking, well, this is it. For real. My God.
Then I started to have another whole category of fears. What if that tiny blinking bit of life doesn’t like me? I wondered. After all, I’m not actually related to it. What if, worse, I don’t like it? What if our life becomes a living hell? What if I lose my job and we have to move into Bionic’s parents’ basement? Etc. I sat with most of these questions for most of Bionic’s pregnancy, in a kind of you-made-your-bed-now-lie-in-it sort of way.
We rearranged the apartment, put together a crib, stored boxes of donated diapers and clothes. Bionic changed shape. None of this felt very much like it was leading anywhere I could imagine. I don’t think it started to seem totally real until the second day of Bionic’s torrential bleeding, the day before the bean was born. I was so upset about Bionic’s health that when I opened the freezer to get (what? I don’t remember) and a frozen burrito fell out on my foot I picked it up and hurled it across the room in a fit of pique. Then I thought, wow, I need to stop throwing frozen food. My wife is having a baby. Now.
As Bionic went into active labor I was totally freaked out by the amount of pain that she was in, (that might deserve its own post some time) but I did manage to stop hurling objects and help her get to the hospital. Once she was ensconced in the labor room, had gotten the epidural, and was calmer, I started to feel excited. It was happening! Now! Someone was going to hand me an infant! Soon! There was also so much numbness from having gotten not that much sleep and not that much food and having survived the cab ride that I stopped worrying for a while and was just happy that Bionic seemed comfortable.
Then there were hours of pushing, which for me felt like a sort of weird college exam all-nighter I was pulling. (I may write about this later too, but for now it’s too much.) Then finally, after Bionic’s doctor was a total horror and eleventy-billion people yelled at Bionic for not having contractions/not pushing/being in pain (again, a post on this later), the bean arrived.
And now this part is going to sound completely fake and sappy, and while it may in fact be sappy, I swear to you that it is not fake. All of my fears dissolved. I knew I loved this creature. I looked at the him and thought, I have to connect myself to you. “I want to give him my dad’s name. He has to have my dad’s name,” I called over to Bionic, who was getting stitched back up. She looked exhausted. “Ok,” she said, smiling, “but can we talk about it in the morning?”
To be continued in a series on non-bio-mom stuff. I hope I’m not boring the pants off of you.
Also, the above watercolor is from my other, arty, blog: jess-a-sketch